Tuesday, September 11, 2007

To a Silent Hero

Dear Tom,

When I woke up this morning, snuggled in the warm blankets of my bed, safe in my home, thinking only of myself and my desire to snooze the alarm, I did not know where the day would take me. I did not know that in a most unforseen coincidence, I would meet you on my computer screen.

I was reading blogs, as I always do, and encountered one that led to a link that led to a list. On that list were thousands of names - thousands of people I'd never met or known. They were fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, husbands, wives, and friends. And we, the nobodies of the internet, were asked to choose one, do a little research, and try - in our small way - to create a tribute that might honor that person. Completely at random, with no idea what would happen, I chose you: Thomas E. Burnett, Jr.

I expected to find a nice person, someone with a family who misses him, with a job he was good at, with a life cut too short. And to an extent, I found all that. I was awed by your professional success, at how you worked your way up to become Sr. Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Thoratec Corp. I was touched by the story of how you met your wife, and I laughed when I heard how you won her over (taking the light bulb out of the Applebee's lamp, shattering it on the ground and saying, "I'm trying to create a mood here and this light's not helping!"). And I was sad to learn that your daughters were so young when they lost you - twins of five and another girl of only three. But as I continued, I found so much more.

I found that you were a passenger on United flight 93, the plane that went down in an open field in Pennsylvania, sparing other potential victims who might have been taken with its intended target. And I found that you called your wife, Deena, four times after the flight was hijacked, eventually telling her that you knew you would die, but that you and other passengers had decided to do something to stop the hijackers. You were one of the heroes who stepped forward and took action, saving countless other lives.

I sit here now with tears rolling down my cheeks, wondering how it's possible that the world was blessed with such a great man whom so few of us really got to know. I'm grateful that scrolling through a list at random led me to learn about you and your life, to remember the selflessness with which you acted on September 11, 2001. I am sad on this day for many things and many people, but I will try, now, to be happy - grateful for you and what you contributed to this world.

With sincerest admiration and respect,
One American Girl


If you'd like to read more tributes, or write one of your own, click here for info. And regardless of your political leanings, please take a moment to remember all who were lost on September 11, 2001, and all who were left behind to live without them.


Unknown said...

Lara-thank you for this beautiful tribute.

Anonymous said...

I've been sneaking around here for a bit, but I feel compelled to thank you for this. I'm sure somewhere Tom's family is feeling a little warmer, not knowing that it's because a complete stranger is feeling such love for their departed one.

Wolf Lover Girl said...

Just beautiful! I just finished my own little memory and fought back the tears... I didn't win with yours. :-)

~ Wolf Lover Girl

Kennethwongsf said...

Never have I read a more fitting tribute penned. Tragedies tend to bring out the best and the worst in us. This post is among the best.

Guilty Secret said...

That was a beautiful tribute, Lara, and another example of your truly excellent writing.

Her Bad Mother said...


flutter said...

This was really really lovely, Lara.

Lara said...

thanks, everyone, for reading. i'm glad i got a chance to do this, even such a small thing. it made me feel like part of something greater for a moment.

and jackie? welcome! :)

Anonymous said...

Oh, Lara. You took my breath away today. Submit this piece everywhere!

I too sit here with tears streaming.

Lara said...

nutmeg - everywhere, huh? i'm not sure the national enquirer would be interested. nor vogue. and writing for them are OBVIOUSLY my two major career writing goals. ;)